Eight years ago, South Burlington Police Officer Brianne Williamson joined her fellow officers in a run up Williston Road to raise awareness for the Vermont Special Olympics. Since then, Williamson has remained devoted to furthering what she calls the “inclusion revolution”, volunteering hundreds of hours of her time to the Special Olympics, and raising thousands of dollars in the process.
Now, Williamson has been selected to represent Vermont Law Enforcement on the world stage, traveling in February to Dubai, UAE, to run in a ceremony with police officers and athletes from around the world to ring in the World Games.
“I’m absolutely honored and so excited to be going over to Dubai for it,” Williamson said in an interview last week. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I look forward to representing Vermont and the South Burlington Police Department.”
In Dubai, Williamson will join 124 law enforcement officers and 80 athletes carrying the “torch of hope” through every Emirate before the games begin. Beyond initiating the event, as a “guardian of hope,” Williamson is tasked with bolstering the cause and supporting the competitors.
Before she even arrives, Williamson will have done much to fulfill this role. After learning that she was being honored as a guardian of hope, Williamson began a push to raise $10,000 for the Special Olympics. So far, she has collected $2,500 from local businesses and is planning an upcoming bake sale and comedy fundraiser, among other efforts.
But Williamson has done much more for the organization than raise money, and she began long before being selected to travel to Dubai.
In the eight years since Williamson began volunteering with the Vermont games, she has served on the executive council of and run in the South Burlington leg of the Torch Run, braved the mid-winter waters of Lake Champlain to complete eight different Penguin Plunges, and attended conferences in states from Massachusetts to California to learn how to contribute most effectively to the Special Olympics’ mission.
When describing her involvement in the actual competitions, Williamson says she is mostly responsible for delivering medals to the victors and cheering on the athletes. But according to Sergeant Ed Soychak, Williamson’s characterization downplays the role she plays.
“I don’t care what Bri tells you,” Soychak said, describing Williamson’s participation in the holiday games this past December. “She’s running a lot of the whole games, she’s running a lot of the logistics of how the athletes participate. It was beautiful to watch.”
And Williamson’s relationship with the athletes does not end when the games do. She has formed close friendships with many of the athletes she has met, and is something of a mentor to several of those she’s come to know.
“I have a bunch of them that will come up and talk to me about things that are going on in their lives, if they need advice or they just want to share,” Williamson said.
Williamson was familiar with the Special Olympics before her career in law enforcement, and while her streak of volunteerism started small, she became more invested when she began to see the connection building with the people she is hired to protect.
“Slowly and surely, I understood what it was that I’m doing,” Williamson said. “The partnership between law enforcement and the athletes of Special Olympics Vermont, and how important that is to the community.”
Williamson’s understanding of the organization’s impact continues to grow. She saw that the high-fives and hugs she receives at award ceremonies are replicated around the world, and she was inspired to apply to represent Vermont law enforcement after realizing that the work she does in Vermont is just as important on a global scale.
A community service officer excelling in victim-based services, Williamson’s work with Special Olympics is a continuation of her work as a police officer, and a compliment to the entire South Burlington Police Department, Soychak said.
“We’re all very proud of her for what she’s doing, and it’s a perfect fit,” Soychak said.
To make a donation to Williamson’s Special Olympics fundraiser, go to https://give.specialolympicsvermont.org/fundraiser/1672380.